Almost Gone, But Not Forgotten

Whoa! It’s been seriously long since I’ve posted on this blog. Things happen.

I recently started a new blog about mine and my siblings’ journey to become vegan (or vegetarian in their case) for the next 6 weeks. Inspired by the documentary Vegucated, we decided to give it a spin. So check out A Fling With the Veg Thing.

The plan is to return to this site at some point. In the mean time enjoy our vegucation!

ilona

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Coming Soon…

Yes it’s been a while since my last post but hang in there! I promise a new one is on the way in the next few days…
It will be a recipe so get your taste buds revved for Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter and Garlicky Rapini (YUM).

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A Farm Life For Me!

So I’ve decided to take up a life of farming. Well, kind of. Well, almost not really at all. But after joining up with the Community Supported Agriculture program I certainly feel like I’m contributing to the farming way of life! Like an honorary farm-hand.

So what’s this Community Supported Agriculture business? Good question. Until about two weeks ago I had no idea either. But in the serendipitous process of doing some research for work I stumbled upon this wonderful gem of an idea.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a program whereby you (the community) purchase “shares” in a farm to help support the business of agriculture – your money, usually paid before the growing season starts, helps the farm obtain seeds, equipment and all manner of other necessary things needed to grow and procure food, and in return, during harvest time you get fresh, locally grown vegetables!

This innovative concept started in Europe and was brought to North America in the 80’s. These days there are hundreds of CSA farms across Canada and thousands across the USA. If you live in Ontario, check out the Ontario CSA website to search for CSA farms near you; often such farms will have drop off points in urban and suburban areas so that even those not inclined to start up backyard or balcony vegetable gardens can partake in the bounty without digging in the dirt.

I decided to join The Fresh Veggies farm located in Brampton, Ontario mainly because one of their drop off points is in my hometown but other reasons sparked my interest as well. This farm is located in the heart of suburbia, bordered by large housing developments on most sides, a four lane road on another but protected from future sprawl because it has the good fortune to rest on conservation land, oh and a river runs through it. More than a dozen farmers lease bits of the land on the farm, using common equipment and sharing knowledge and expertise to teach and learn the art of farming. The goods produced on the land are sold at the farm, at farmer’s markets and largely through the CSA program.

The facts and figures:

  • the cost is $500 for twenty weeks of produce in sufficient quantities to feed a family of four or two vegetable fanatics
  • you cannot choose what vegetables you get as it is determined by the crops planted and the seasons (but that’s the fun of it!)
  • I can pick up my box of veggies directly from the farm or from a farmer’s market close to where I live

I cannot tell you how super excited I am to start receiving my share of the goods beginning in late May and continuing into the brisk days of October. Twenty glorious weeks, each one bringing the seasonal spoils of the land, locally produced, organically grown, travelling less than 45km from farm to fork AND no middle men! Each weekly box is like a Kinder egg surprise because although you can anticipate the treasure within you won’t know what you’re gonna get until you crack it open. I know this might sound crazy to many of you but I am  buzzing with impatience until I get notified that  harvest time has begun. Already I am feeling like a celebratory dinner featuring the much-anticipated produce will be in order.

My plan, once the harvest starts, is to share with you what goodies I uncover in my weekly bounty and what I end up doing with them (with accompanying pictures, of course). So cheers to a spring/summer/fall of discovery and recipes….I am literally counting the days!!!PS Thanks mom for taking the plunge with me!

PPS There will be opportunities for me to actually go and visit the farm. How awesome is that? To actually go and see your food grow?? Will definitely plan for that!

Posted in Community Supported Agriculture, New Beginnings, Vegetable Craving | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Recipes: Chocolate Guinness Cake/Cupcakes and Icing Two Ways

A day late but better late than never! Here are the recipes I promised. The recipe for the Guinness cake lists most ingredients by weight, although a bit more tedious as not all of you might have a kitchen scale at home, it does prove to be a more exact way of measuring out baking ingredients. Kitchen scales are pretty inexpensive, I use a Salter one that works just fine and I think I paid less than $15 for it. If you’d like a version of this recipe that uses measuring cups and spoons, let me know!  

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE/CUPCAKES

ingredients:

for the cake…

250ml Guinness

250g unsalted butter

75g cocoa

400g sugar

140ml sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

275g plain flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking soda

for the icing… (see my version below)

300g cream cheese, softened

150g icing sugar, sifted

125ml heavy cream

directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/355F, and grease and line a 9 inch springform tin.

2. Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, and add the butter (in slices or spoonfuls). Heat until the butter is melted, and remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the saucepan. Finally, beat in the flour and baking soda.

3. Pour the batter into the greased and lined tin, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (I usually bake it on a non-convection setting for 50-55 minutes). Leave to completely cool in the tin – it is quite a damp cake.

4. For the icing, beat the icing sugar and cream cheese together. Add the cream, and beat again until it’s a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake until it resembles the frothy top of a pint of Guinness.

**I make a slightly simpler, more convenient version of the cream cheese icing: first I beat one 250g package of softened light Philadelphia cream cheese (I have found that using the light variety results in an icing that is a bit more tangy than if you use regular cream cheese; this contrast nicely with the cake! ) for a minute or so, then I add ~100-125g of icing sugar (depending in how sweet you like it) and then a few splashes of cream  to achieve the consistency i want, which is thin enought to spread but thick enough to form peaks on the cake.

**The rest of the Guinness left in the bottle or can is for the cook…those are the rules…I don’t make them, I just follow them 🙂

for the cupcakes… Follow recipe and oven temperature setting as above. Line muffin tin with paper liners , fill the cups almost all the way up and bake for 20 minutes. This makes about 18 cupcakes.

**I found that greasing the muffin tin along the edges of the cups with butter (where batter will come in contact with the tin as it bakes)  ensures the cupcakes don’t stick and are easier to take out.  

VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3-4 cups icing sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2-4 tablespoons milk

directions:

1. With the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or with a hand-held electric mixer beat the butter for  a minute or so on medium speed. Change to a low speed and add 3 cups sifted icing sugar (the low speed is essential if you don’t want a cloud of white dust to cover you and your immediate surroundings). Beat for 2-3 minutes, until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and salt plus 2 tablespoons of milk. Use the remaining icing sugar and milk to adjust the consistency of your frosting – add more milk for a softer frosting, more icing sugar if you want a stiffer frosting.

**It is important to have softened butter to make this icing. I suggest to soften the butter at room temperature overnight rather than blitizing it in the microwave – this does take a bit of pre-planning but it’s definitely worth it (melted butter does not make good frosting!).

**Take the time to sift your icing sugar!! That is, if you want smooth, lump-free results.

**The recipe I’ve offered lets you adjust the consistency depending on what you’re using the icing for. To frost a cake I prefer a thinner version and a stiffer batch to pipe out designs on a cake or cupcakes (for the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes I used all of the icing sugar and about 2 tablespoons of the milk). This recipe is very forgiving – just add more icing sugar or milk if needed.

Enjoy!

Posted in Baking, {Cup} Cake Hall of Fame | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going Green…from excessive frosting consumption!

Ta-da…

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

…the results of Tuesday night’s baking and last night’s finishing touches. Just in time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (everyone’s Irish today, right?).

To make these beauties I used a recipe that by now feels like an old, reliable friend. The recipe, plucked from the salivary-gland stimulating pages of Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook, is for Chocolate Guinness Cake. I cannot tell you how many times I have made this cake in actual cake form; a cake that truly defies expectations for a chocolate cake because it is, after all, made with one of the world’s finest beers (or stouts, to be semantically correct). The cake  comes out a deep, dark, enigmatic chocolate colour…almost black, really…it is superbly moist, not too sweet, with a very faint iron-like, almost metallic hum undoubtedly imparted by the namesake tipple. I traditionally top it haphazardly with a tangy, subtly sweetened cream cheese frosting with the final effect being that of a pint of Guinness itself.

Only recently I came up with the idea of transforming the cake into cupcakes because, well,  who doesn’t love cupcakes?? Aside from the very in-vogue factor of cupcakes these days, they really are the perfect party dessert…you get one all to yourself to do with as you please. It worked like a charm – I kept the recipe exactly the same and cut the baking time to a third of that for the cake. It made 18 perfect little cakelets.

The first time around I kept the cream cheese frosting – why mess with a sure thing, right? This time, however, I swapped it for a delectable vanilla buttercream frosting as I needed something a bit more shelf stable to withstand their final destination at a bake sale table(minus a couple for tasting just to be sure they were good and well a couple of “rejects” that didn’t live up to my standards ;)).

What can I say, vanilla buttercream frosting is a new food love. Sure I’ve had it before in it’s most common incarnation as icing on a store-bought slab birthday cake, but homemade buttercream? A different story all together. It was good. Really good. I couldn’t help but steal a few spoonfuls here and there and then lick the bowl, spoon, spatula and, ashamedly, the piping bag, clean. It was smooth, and rich and yes, still as cloyingly sweet as the commercially made version but with a mellowness that only real butter and vanilla extract can lend. Clearly vanilla buttercream frosting elicits the same mysterious reaction as a jar of Nutella…I just cannot resist the temptation when it is in my environment!! (More on the Nutella thing in another post). But I digress. Finally, a sprinkle of green sugar sparkles and that was that.

I promise I will share the recipes for the Chocolate Guinness Cake and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting tomorrow, but now I have some business to attend to…a pint of Guinness awaits!

PS If you don’t know who Nigella Lawson is…please, I beg of you, do check her out.

Posted in Baking, Celebrations, Food Love, {Cup} Cake Hall of Fame | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hug a dietitian today!

Happy (Canadian) National Dietitians Day!! (the US version was last week…why can’t these two great nations get on the same page??)

To all of the lovely ladies and gentlemen who practice as registered dietitians (RDs) in countless areas of public and private sectors….I wish you all the very best as you tirelessly work to provide accurate and valuable information and the finest, most innovative nutrition care to your patients and clients! On a side note…I also wish you the fortitude to endure (or continue enduring) the countless hours you spend “undoing” the misinformation, myths and voodoo that some believe to be sound nutrition advice (sorry, couldn’t help myself,  hehe :)).

Now, some of you might think dietitians are nutrition nazis, always at the ready to snatch that chocolate chip cookie out of your hand, before it *gasp* makes it past your lips, but truly nothing could be further form the truth!! So I’ve rounded up some of the common folklore that persists to circulate amongst the general public with the hope of finally unearthing the truth about the fine women and men know as dietitians …  

1) MYTH Dietitians cannot turn off their internal calorie counters…ever…they analyze each and every morsel of food that you and I ingest and are always ready to provide you with this information should you even show the teeniest hint of interest.

So not true. While always interested in the nutritional value of the foods people eat, dietitians understand that eating is about sooooo much more than just ingesting calories. True, the very nature of the title “dietitian” implies someone who might put you on a diet but in this field, diet refers to the foods and drinks you typically eat and NOT the act of restricting food. Food is about family and friends, about culture, about celebrations and pleasure. The aromas of food can evoke powerful memories…just think about how the smell of freshly baked cookies makes you feel and how it transports you instantaneously to your childhood. Food is the universal language, right? Or is that love? Isn’t it the same?

2) MYTH Dietitians are contractually obligated to attend a monthly weigh-in.

Yikes! Maybe I’m exaggerating this myth a bit but the idea that all dietitians must be “skinny” does persist and is preposterous. It is a well know fact among dietitians that bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes…how boring would this world be if we all looked the same?? Physical appearance doesn’t always denote healthiness. What you put into your body along with your mindset about food and activity level is a much better indicator of that. While attaining a healthy weight may be a goal for some, the quest should never be at the expense of respecting yourself and being kind to the only body you have.

3) MYTH In order to even think about going to eat at a fast food restaurant, dietitians must carefully plan their disguise, drive to an unfamiliar neighbourhood and  ONLY do so under very special circumstances.

It is true that eating at fast food restaurants frequently can be hazardous to your health (hope that doesn’t surprise anyone!). And that to attain health one should consider the type of fuel you feed your body with. But the idea that eating at a fast food restaurant now and then, even by a dietitian, is an indictable offence? Well that’s just silly. Dietitians understand that eating out is part and parcel of the crazy lives we live; between work and school and commuting and kids and soccer practice and dance lessons and the gym and shopping and the drycleaners…well you get the picture…it is perfectly okay to have someone else cook for you once in a while. A good dietitian will show you how to make better choices when you do eat out instead of condemning you for your delinquent ways.

4) MYTH Dietitians always have the will power to say no to dessert.

Umm have you ever been out to dinner with a group of dietitians? Talk of dessert begins even before the appetizers arrive. Dietitians recognize that having a delectable dessert, whether it be chocolate cake, apple pie or a colourful platter of fruit, is part of healthy eating. Could you imagine a world where birthdays were devoid of cake or summers without an ice cream cone to neutralize the scorching heat? Most dietitians can’t either. The idea of moderation is often thrown around when dessert is discussed so, while one should always enjoy dessert to the fullest, it’s not a bad idea to practice this concept at the same time.

5) MYTH At dinner parties dietitians eyeball your plate carefully, taking stock of what you are eating – based on this they decide if they befriend you. This goes for what you put in your grocery cart as well.

Never mind that if this were true dietitians would not make friends…ever…but the idea that dietitians are this preoccupied with what others are eating is nonsense. Dietitians enjoy eating. Period. They enjoy cooking and sharing recipes and sampling other peoples specialties. You get a group of dietitians together and you essentially have group of food enthusiasts on your hand! A passion for food characterizes many of the dietitians I know, they understand the joie de vivre (the joy of life) that food imparts and how nourishing a healthy relationship with food can be. All foods are part of a healthy diet (there’s that word again) but it certainly is important to learn how to feed your body in the best way possible. Along with an active lifestyle, healthy eating (that includes all food groups) is the real key to longevity and the proverbial fountain of youth.

Dietitians are nutrition experts who are specifically educated to help you and your families learn about eating. Visit Dietitians of Canada and Eatright Ontario for reliable nutrition information.

So go ahead and hug a dietitian! They don’t bite!

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Sweeeeeet!

Just some of the ingredients that I will be using tonight to bake up a sweet little treat. Any guesses of what it might be?? Stay tuned for the big reveal on Thursday…

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Lovely Granola

So I am sitting here eating my breakfast (a lot later than usual given the time shift), and I thought I’d share with you a recent discovery that I stumbled upon in the cereal aisle: LOVE CRUNCH. It really was love at first bite! Add to your usual cereal, sprinkle on yogurt or steal a handful here or there for a sweet treat.

Another reason to love this granola? It turns the milk chocolatey!! So you can go ahead and feel like a kid again…

Posted in Breakfast, Food Love, Product Review | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment